Friday 11 September 2015 at 19:09Cycling Together For Climate Justice
With the COP21 international climate talks coming up in Paris this year — talks that are meant to bring about a universal, legally binding agreement to combat climate change effectively — Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI) spoke with two young South African women, both committed environmental activists featured as part of Mail&Guardian’s 200 Young South Africans last year. This is the second and last of those interviews.
Fatima Ragie is founder member and project manager of Green Deen, a campaign that aims to highlight environmental issues in the Muslim community. She is a co-opted Board member of SAFCEI, and is taking a Master’s degree in Environmental Science at the University of the Witwatersrand.
Climate change is often not taken seriously, what would you say to these people?
In our urban environments, where our lives are so disconnected from nature and from each other, it is often too easy to dismiss climate change. However, we simply need to look at the long term data collected by scientists and read the international headlines – about the local impacts of droughts, floods, cyclones and rising sea levels – to begin to understand just how serious climate change is.
We cannot ignore what is happening simply because we do not always directly feel the impact of this global crisis.
A lot of people think they can’t do anything about it; that it is something out of their hands. What do you say to that?
Is global climate change daunting? Yes; as an individual it is so easy to feel overwhelmed and helpless. But we are not just individuals, we are part of communities. Together we define our societies. It is time that we recognise our interdependence with other people and with our environment. We need to turn this interdependence into a strength by working together, and not being blind and ignorant of this environmental catastrophe that is unfolding.
What about the government’s role in mitigating climate change?
We are too often caught up in the mindset that it is only the government’s responsibility to make changes and act upon climate change. This will get us nowhere. We need to be the agents of change in our daily lives. We have to hold the government accountable. We need to demand that our governments listen to us, the people, and not just to big corporations.
South Africa in particular is too dependent on fossil fuels. We need to urge the government to change that. We need to make sure change happens by first pressuring the government to take definitive steps on climate policy, and then by implementing what has been set out.
What do you think about the upcoming COP21 international climate talks in Paris? What role do these play?
Conferences and multi-national agreements are often dismissed as talk-shops. We cite their poor track record as a reason to not engage. However, we often forget the importance of policy-making, and with COP21 approaching, we must not forget that it is these policy decisions that we need if we want to change the structures of industry in a meaningful way. We therefore need to make sure that we hold both our national and international leaders accountable in these processes.
What role do you think civil society can play in these talks?
Campaigns like We Have Faith – Act Now for Climate Justice, which came about during the lead-up to COP17 in Durban, and is once again active now for COP21 in Paris, are good examples of the needed mobilisation on the ground. This campaign brings people of different faiths together with the common goal of working for climate justice.
The campaign is launching a cycling caravan that will travel through Southern Africa, raising awareness and collect petitions that demand that our leaders commit to fighting climate change. I urge everyone to participate, whether through this campaign or in any other way, so that we all work together for climate justice.
We are dependent on each other — we breathe the same air, drink the same water, eat the same food — we need to work together as communities to make sure that climate justice happens and is not only paid lip service.
To quote the Noble Quraan: “And it is He (God) who has made you khaleaafa (stewards, successors) upon the earth..." (Ch 6 V165).
Fatima RagieWe Have Faith - Act Now for Climate Justice is a featured pilgrimage on The People's Pilgrimage. To see photos from the caravan, click here.
Header image via SAFCEI